FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the New England Patriots held an intrasquad scrimmage on Friday, it probably wasn't a coincidence coach Bill Belichick had quarterback Tom Brady and wide receiver Brandin Cooks on the same team.
One of the critical parts of training camp has been Brady and Cooks being on the field together, building off their work in spring as they get to know each other better.
"[We] are building up a rapport but that takes a lot of time to be built," Brady explained. "That goes all the way through the season. We're working hard at it. We're talking about things. There are a lot of things that go on to try to improve the learning curve, but he's just been so much fun to be around. He really adds to a great group of other receivers that I've been fortunate to play with for a long time."
What the 5-foot-10, 189-pound Cooks will add once the regular season begins is one of the Patriots' more compelling storylines. Fantasy football owners, of course, are paying close attention.
Friday's scrimmage provided a potential preview when the one play in which Brady threw in Cooks' direction resulted in nearly a 50-yard completion. The speedy Cooks made a terrific catch inside the 10.
"That was a great catch," marveled Brady, who had drawn the defense offside and took a deep shot. "That was a big play, but those are the kind of plays we need. If we can build those things into our offense and make some of those down-the-field plays, that takes some more pressure off other parts of the offense.
"Certainly, when guys are making plays that far down the field, they've got to cover and they've got to respect it. You know, I've always said I try to throw it where they're not, so if they're deep, you throw it short. If they're short, you throw it deep. If they're outside, you throw it inside. You try to throw it where they're not, so that was a great example of what we're trying to do."
That, of course, is a Cooks specialty, as evidenced by his 15.0 average per catch each of the last two seasons with the New Orleans Saints. Cooks has touchdown catches of 98 and 71 yards over the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
As Belichick said, he has shown he's effective getting open and running after the catch. Furthermore, according to Belichick, "he pays attention to all of the little details, tries to get things exactly the way we're coaching them, the way we want to do them."
Adding speed to a receiving corps that returns Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola should make the Patriots better. With Mitchell and Amendola limited participants through the opening of training camp, the primary three-receiver set has featured Edelman, Cooks and Hogan.
"It's a competitive group," said Cooks, who wears No. 14 (which he explained as double the number 7 he wore at Oregon State). "Everyone has their special traits. We make each other better. There is no selfishness in the room and that's what a group is all about."
As for Brady, Cooks said, "To play with a guy like that is special. The way that he pays attention to the game, he makes you up your level a little more."
One example came Friday when Cooks was working on a shorter route to the inside part of the field, and he dropped a pass from Brady. Immediately, Brady directed Cooks back to the line of scrimmage and the two went through the same route again and executed it.
Still, Cooks held himself accountable by hitting the ground for push-ups.
Soon enough, the horn sounded to signal that it was time for the next drill, but Brady called for Cooks to do it one more time before they moved on. If ever there was a snapshot of how Brady is a stickler with his pass-catchers, this was it.
Cooks is embracing it.
"I've been learning at a good pace," he said. "My motto is to catch up so I don't get left behind."